Shedding light on how cells regenerate protective sheaths around nerve fibres in the brain, could be the potential breakthrough, researchers are seeking, to develop a treatment to repair nerve damage in multiple sclerosis patients is a new study.
These sheaths, made up of a substance called myelin, are critical for the quick transmission of nerve signals, enabling vision, sensation and movement, but break down in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The study, by the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge, found that immune cells, known as macrophages, help trigger the regeneration of myelin.
Researchers found that following loss of or damage to myelin, macrophages can release a compound called activin-A, which activates production of more myelin.
Dr Veronique Miron, of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said that in MS patients, the protective layer surrounding nerve fibres is stripped away and the nerves are exposed and damaged.
She explained that approved therapies for multiple sclerosis work by reducing the initial myelin injury - they do not promote myelin regeneration.
Miron said that the study could help find new drug targets to enhance myelin regeneration and help to restore lost function in patients with multiple sclerosis.
The study has been published in Nature Neuroscience.